Local Experts: Cutting Military Budget Would Help Valley

If the government spent less on the military, life in the Valley would almost certainly improve, according to local experts. In the Valley, it’s likely that people are dying because they don’t have health insurance. In 2010, more than 44,000 Americans died because the U.S. does not have universal health care, which Canada, Cuba, Europe, Japan, and every other rich nation has. That’s according to congressman Alan Grayson.

Every year, acres of farmland and forestland in the Valley are turned into parking lots, fast food restaurants, and “McMansion” vacation houses that are usually vacant.

A small percentage of the money that the government spends on war could provide free health care for everyone in the Valley, and permanently protect the region’s farmland and forestland from so-called “development.” New homes could be provided by demolishing rundown, poorly insulated, single family houses and replacing them with energy efficient, multi-family homes.

Almost half of this year's entire federal budget of $2.9 trillion is being spent on war. That’s according to:

www.WarResisters.org/FederalPieChart

Michael Klare is a professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College in Amherst. He told the Valley Post that Jo Comerford is a leading expert on things that ordinary people can do to get the government to spend less on the military. Comerford is the director of the National Priorities Project in Northampton. She told the Valley Post that people are working to stop the F-35 war plane from being based in Vermont. A web site on this issue is: www.StopTheF35.com. The site says one group that is working to keep the F-35 out of Vermont is the Vermont Workers Center, which can be reached at www.WorkersCenter.org or by phone at (802) 861-2877.

Here are the 2011 voting records of local members of Congress, from Peace Action’s web site: http://peaceactionwest.org/thescore

100 percent is best, zero is worst.

The Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts:

John Olver 100

Scott Brown 25

John Kerry 44

Richard Neal 89

Brattleboro:

Patrick Leahy 78

Bernie Sanders 75

Peter Welch 96

Keene:

Kelly Ayotte 11

Jeanne Shaheen 67

Charlie Bass 11

John Ungerleider is a professor of Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation at the School for International Training in Brattleboro. “The military budget is so high mainly because members of Congress want to keep defense jobs in their districts,” he told the Valley Post. Asked if the U.S. would be more likely to be attacked if the military budget was cut by 50 percent, Ungerleider said, “Of course not.” The best way for people to get the government to cut military spending is to donate to, and/or volunteer for, a group like the American Friends Service Committee www.afsc.org, he said.

Melvin Goodman is a professor at Johns Hopkins University. For a decade he worked at the CIA as a division chief and foreign policy analyst. New Yorker magazine writer Seymour Hersh said of Goodman’s 2013 book, National Insecurity, “Goodman is not only telling us how to save wasted billions, he is telling us how to save ourselves.”

In the book, Goodman writes, “The United States has the most secure geopolitical environment of any major nation, but sustains a defense budget that equals the combined budgets of the rest of the world…. We have more than 700 military bases and facilities around the world; few other countries have any. We can deploy 11 aircraft carriers; among our rivals only China plans to deploy one—and that is a revamped Ukrainian aircraft carrier, a carryover from the ancient Soviet inventory…. Since the end of World War II, the United States has fought inconclusive wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan; conducted dubious invasions of Cambodia, Lebanon, Grenada, and Panama; and mounted counterproductive covert operations around the world, including those in the Congo, Chile [which resulted in the installation of dictator Augusto Pinochet, who tortured and killed thousands of his political opponents], El Salvador, and Guatemala. Only Desert Storm in Iraq in 1991 can be termed a success, although it left Saddam Hussein in power and President George H.W. Bush out of power the following year, setting the stage for George W. Bush’s use of force against Iraq two decades later.”

David King is Chancellor of the University of Liverpool in England and a staff expert on climate change at UBS, a Swiss bank with 62,000 employees. "The Iraq war was just the first of this century's 'resource wars,' in which powerful countries use force to secure valuable commodities," King told the Guardian newspaper in 2009.

The U.S. and other rich nations have a long history of stealing resources from Africa. This story is told in the books “Bury the Chains” by Adam Hochschild and "Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power" by Steve Coll, and in the film "Lumumba" by Raoul Peck. The average life expectancy in the African nation of Swaziland is about 32. In the U.S., it’s 77.

While the chances of dramatically cutting U.S. military spending may seem small, in 1989, the chances of Nelson Mandela, who was then seven years into a life sentence in prison, becoming president of South Africa were also small. In 1994, Mandela was elected president and one of the world’s most brutal and racist governments was overthrown.

In the United States, 155 years ago, ending slavery and granting women the right to vote both seemed unlikely. Mass movements of ordinary people won justice.

Comments

military spending

Imagine what we could do without it!

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